Hello friends! We’re getting down to the wire before Christmas… only 4 more days!! Do you have your holiday menus planned out? If not (or even if you do!,) think about adding this gorgeous fresh cranberry orange relish to your table.
I’m not too traditional about our holiday meals. I do something different every year depending on my whims and what sounds good to me. This year I’m making my barley & kale-stuffed squash (I might use farro because that’s what’s in my pantry at the moment), along with some honey-mustard salmon & roasted asparagus. But no matter what shows up for the main course, I always make either fresh cranberry orange relish, or cooked cranberry sauce.
To me, cranberries seem to belong to Christmas even more than to Thanksgiving, what with their beautiful festive colour and bright tart flavour. But their real gift to us is in their fabulous nutritional benefits. Most folks know cranberries can help prevent urinary tract infections, but let’s not sell them short- they do so much more than that! Cranberries contain a vast array of phytonutrients, including anthocyanins and other flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other compounds which have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer benefits. As well, cranberries can protect our hearts, boost our immune systems, and support our digestive tracts. They’re also full of fiber and Vitamin C. Pretty impressive for such a cute little berry!
Of course, these health benefits are strongest when the cranberries are eaten fresh and raw. But the growing season is short and cranberries are not available everywhere. This makes me sad. However, dried and frozen cranberries have nearly the same nutritional benefits as fresh raw berries, so we can rely on these products when we can’t find fresh berries. Otherwise, ask your American or Canadian BFF to pick up a bag or 2 for you when she’s in North America over the holidays.
I first remember eating this cranberry orange relish at my grandmother’s table at Thanksgiving dinner, and as a little girl I found it to be “too tart,” even with the 2 cups! of sugar in the original recipe. But as I grew up, it grew on me, and now I try to keep a batch in my fridge at all times during November & December (as long as I have cranberries… which I did this season due to Mark’s business travel this fall.)
But I did have to do something about the 2 cups! of sugar… it was just too much, both for taste and for health. Yes, cranberries do need sweetening, but since they contain pectin (which is a natural thickening agent,) I found I could reduce the sugar to just 1/4 cup without sacrificing texture, and it is still plenty sweet. I added a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds to help it bind. Chia seeds pack their own nutritional punch, what with their omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber. Plus, in this recipe, you can’t tell the difference between the chia seeds and the cranberry seeds. Win! The whole oranges add sweetness as well.
This recipe is super simple, requiring only 4 ingredients and 15 minutes to make. I use the food grinder attachment on my KitchenAid mixer, but a food processor also works. Once made, this relish has endless possibilities! It’s a fabulous side dish, especially with any lentil dish or veggie burger, but please don’t limit it to the dinner table. It’s also fantastic as a topping for smoothie bowls, chia pudding, cereal, yogurt, or coconut ice cream. Or try is as a chunky salad dressing (it’s amazing on any salad containing beets &/or feta)… and I must admit it is a heavenly addition to a good cheese tray, especially with hard aged cheeses such as Gruyere. The sky is the limit with this relish, friends.
It keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge but I’ve never had mine hang around that long. Enjoy!